Canadian receiver Rashaun Simonise is taking a circuitous route to a pro football career.
After an outstanding 2015 season with the University of Calgary Dinos, Simonise has been to Chicago, Jacksonville, Sacramento and Calgary pursuing the chance to play football for a living.
Once Simonise found out he would be academically ineligible to play for the Dinos in 2016 he set out to find a way to kick-start the next phase of his football life: playing professionally. He connected with U.S. based agent, Brian Brundage, who owns an Arena League team, the Chicago Eagles in the Champions Indoor Football League (CIF).
Simonise played five games for the Eagles recording 11 receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns. While in the Windy City Simonise ran a laser timed 4.48-second 40-yard dash at Parisi Speed School – in tennis shoes. Then the rangy receiver went to Jacksonville for two weeks to practice with the Arena Football League’s Sharks.
(Simonise – No. 81 – leaps and blocks a field goal while playing for the Chicago Eagles.)
“I felt that playing in the arena league would help learn the game at a fast pace, as well as develop my agility and speed. Along with that, I felt like it would be a good opportunity to get pro coaching and also the experience,” Simonise says.
Meanwhile, Brundage was working on getting Simonise into the NFL Supplemental Draft – the league holds it for players whose eligibility changes after the NFL Draft. Letters from family, friends, community members and former coaches were gathered to support Simonise’s case. It took three months until Simonise was deemed eligible.
“As soon as I heard that I had the opportunity to be drafted by an NFL team I was excited. That’s been my dream ever since I started playing football when I was four or five years old,” Simonise says.
There’s been so much interest in the Vancouver, B.C. native that he’ll hold an NFL Pro Day at the University of Calgary on July 11. Simonise’s phone has been blowing up with NFL teams wanting to find out all they can about him. When he’s not fielding calls, working out has been his focus, particularly adding muscle.
“It makes scouts wide-eyed seeing a tall receiver with a bigger build, so I really want to take advantage of that,” the six-foot-five, 200-pounder says.
In a perfect world, Simonise would be training with Dinos teammates at the University of Calgary in preparation for his senior season, but that’s not an option and it’s long behind him. Instead, he’s preparing for the biggest job interview of his life.
“I’m working as hard as I can and the results will show up on the Pro Day,” Simonise says.
Simultaneously, NFL scouts are studying tape from Simonise’s junior season at the University of Calgary. He made 51 receptions for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns while earning CIS first-team All-Canadian honours.
“He has some raw tools. Best thing he does is track the deep ball. He has some height and catch radius. Long strider, not a real sudden player, but there are some vertical traits of intrigue,” an NFL scouts says.
“He’s a man amongst boys on this [CIS] level. I’d equate it to watching lower level FCS or a [NCAA] Division II player dominate. Some of those guys get to the NFL,” adds another talent evaluator.
Scouts from more than five NFL teams are supposed to travel to Calgary on July 11 to see Simonise perform at his Pro Day with their own eyes. As he looks to create a buzz among talent evaluators.